Our view: Public service at a price? | SteamboatToday.com

Our view: Public service at a price?

At issue:

City Council voted 5-2 to claim first pick on concert tickets and VIP passes the city receives in return for sponsoring several community events.

Our view:

The vote cast the council in a bad light and negatively impacted its plan to build public trust.

We were stunned when we learned council members had voted 5-2 to take first pick of the Strings concert tickets and Free Concert Series VIP passes the city receives in return for helping to sponsor those events. In the past, these tickets have been passed down to city staff and nonprofits.

A grab for free tickets to a concert is not a matter of deceit or fraud, but in a time when the Steamboat Springs City Council is attempting to rebuild public trust within the community, we thinks it’s a definite misstep by the five council members who voted to keep these perks for themselves.

Some would label the discussion as silly or unimportant, but the reaction from the community in the wake of Scott Franz’s June 9 front page story about the vote proved otherwise.

The string of online comments, the input offered by citizens who attended last Friday’s Coffee with a Council and direct correspondence received by council members from their constituents offer proof that Steamboat residents expect their council leaders to show a different kind of leadership than last week’s vote demonstrated.

As public servants, members of this council need to be aware the comments they make at meetings will be judged by the people they serve, and as community leaders, they are held to higher standards.

Everything they do is under a microscope, and from a leadership standpoint, claiming they deserve first dibs on concert tickets and VIP passes sends the wrong message — one that reeks of entitlement and goes against the tenets of servant leadership.

We realize city council members have a difficult job to do, and they work very hard on behalf of the community, but using a position of power for personal gain, even it is just to claim free concert tickets or a VIP lanyard, is wrong.

It’s also misguided for council members to imply they deserve these perks in exchange for their hard work. We think the residents of Steamboat Springs expect their elected leaders to be more altruistic than that.

During Tuesday night’s work session, the topic of the tickets was discussed, and it appears at least four of the council members who voted in favor of the motion are now reconsidering their actions, and we encourage the council at its June 21 meeting to reverse its earlier vote.

It’s noble when council members are willing to admit when they make a mistake, and it’s that type of honest self-reflection that will earn back public trust.

Ultimately, we think elected government officials should be hyper-vigilant about accepting gifts in any form and distance themselves from any action that could be construed as unethical or greedy.

Councilman Scott Ford proposed the city change its practice of receiving tickets and VIP passes to the events it sponsors with taxpayers money, and Councilman Jason Lacy suggested the council review its 40-year-old ethics policy.

We think these are both good ideas that could put this issue to rest permanently so the council can move forward and deal with more important issues.

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